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The Zen of Grocery Shopping


Every morning, as I sip my first cup of coffee, I text my oldest friend, Karen, who lives in Canada. She and I roomed together in college, went our respective ways after graduation, as adults often do, and then reconnected a couple of years ago on Facebook. Initially we began messaging each other every day as a way to provide positive reinforcement regarding our mutual fitness and weight loss goals, but since we began these morning check-ins, they have become much broader in scope. Now, it just doesn’t feel right to start the day without hearing what Karen is up to, how her grandsons are doing and how her diet and exercise went the day before.

Karen lives on a ranch situated on the Alberta prairie, and so urban lifestyle innovations often take a while to reach her. One day last week she expressed excitement about trying a grocery pick-up service that recently launched at her store, the first of its kind there.

“I hate grocery shopping. It’s so draining and such a waste of time,” she tapped out in her morning message to me. “If I can just swoop in and load the bags into my car and drive away, it will make my life so much better.”

Karen told me she would use an app on her smartphone to order her groceries, and it sounded like a direct route to lifestyle improvement. I can’t deny technology genuinely enhances my life, especially when it comes to reducing caregiver isolation. Karen is but one of many friends I stay in touch with via messaging technology. It’s a lifeline for me, in many respects.

But grocery shopping by app is not something I’d consider right now. No, for me grocery shopping presents an oasis of calm that promotes meditative thought.

Just yesterday as I strolled the aisles of my local market, I found the time to come to terms with several caregiving problems I felt needed to be solved. Take Mom’s recent slide toward hypochondria, for example.

Lately Mom believes every little twinge represents a major health crisis. She particularly lives in fear of stroke, so any headache results in a frantic phone call to me at the office, demanding I drop everything to come to her aid. When this happened last week, I did not run to her aid but instead put her through the FAST protocol, asking her to lift both of her arms out to the side and to smile widely as her caregiver checked to see if either arm drifted downward or if the smile had any hint of asymmetry. There was none. Mom simply had a headache, and I told her where to find an aspirin.

I feel these types of episodes are destined to escalate in frequency, and I cannot continue dealing with them on an ad-hoc basis, especially since I moved my office out of the house precisely to get away from these small daily interruptions. “I need a plan” was the thought floating through my mind as I perused the dry goods aisle at my local grocery store on a recent Wednesday.

Stopping for a moment, I contemplated a box of au gratin potatoes. Mom would like these, I think, but how much time do they require to bake? What could I have with them?

I will pick up a kielbasa to slice into the dried potatoes and then bake the whole thing as a one-dish meal, I think, and so I drop the au gratin box into the shopping cart. Having made this small decision, I turned my thoughts back to Mom’s hypochondria.

How can I help reduce Mom’s anxiety about her health? One answer springs to mind immediately: take her to the doctor more often.

As I pushed my cart down the dairy aisle, I spied a package of caramel flan cups. Mom loves these, but how much do they cost? These days I shop based on a strict budget. Can I afford to get Mom some flan? I decided I could and set the cups in the basket.

Maybe if I take Mom to see her primary care doctor every couple of months, she will feel reassured that her health is as good as it can be for a person her age. Sure, it will cost her a co-pay more often, but it might stave off an expensive and unnecessary trip to the emergency room, too, for a phantom stroke. Besides, she is fortunate to be able to afford extra co-pays. Yes, this seemed like a viable plan, one that might spare Mom the incessant health anxiety while sparing me the health-related phone calls during my workday.

Having crossed every item off my shopping list, I turned my cart toward the checkout line. I wondered how Karen was doing with her grocery pick-up. I hoped it would work out well for her. Maybe someday I will avail myself of such a service, too, but for now wandering the grocery aisles provides me with just enough time to marinate some good caregiving plans. I can’t see myself giving that up anytime soon.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. October 7, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Posted by Jane Riehle

    I love shopping for others.


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